Sport Mirco Bergamasco last played for Italy in November 2012 before he suffered a fractured kneecap

The 30-year-old utility back, now with Rovigo in his homeland, has stood out this season and earnt a recall from national coach Jacques Brunel

Venice: Pure City, By Peter Ackroyd

Having drained London dry, Ackroyd has found a juicy new topic on the Adriatic. In this ironically titled study, La Serenissima gains an Ackroydian gloss, familiar to the many fans of his London: A Biography. Ackroyd's Venice is "the home of the dispossessed and the deracinated".

Northern League demands freedom from Rome's rain

Italy's federalist and powerful Northern League, not content with demands for more local political autonomy, now wants freedom from the tyranny of national weather forecasts.

Venice baulks at prospect of 'outrageous' plastic gondolas

Venice has had to endure much over the ages: invading armies, constant floods and marauding tourists. But the evocative lagoon port has drawn the line at the latest assault – the arrival of fibreglass gondolas.

A Taste of Venice: At Table with Brunetti, By Donna Leon

Consumption plays a prominent part in Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti novels. This is fair enough since the detective's beat takes him down the mean canals of Venice, where culinary temptations (with recipes by Roberta Pianaro) are somewhat more frequent than in Marlowe's LA.

Azzurri have Magners snub point to prove, warns Heaslip

Ireland begin their quest to win back-to-back Grand Slams when they open their Six Nations defence against Italy at Croke Park today.

On The Road: Making sense of fair Verona

I get by in Italian. I can be mannerly and appreciative, buy things, curse in a variety of dialects and make myself understood. But, being limited to structureless utterances that lack nuance, cheek or charm, I can't really be myself in Italian. So I have come to Verona to do a month's language course at LinguaIT ( linguait.it ), an on-the-ball school located in a grand palazzo.

Ashton stays on the scent of Saints' last-eight ambitions

Northampton 30 Treviso 18

Heineken Cup round-up: Arias on song as Scots get plastered in Paris

Stade Français scored four first-half tries against Edinburgh in Paris, on their way to a 31-7 victory in Pool Four of the Heineken Cup.

Carmen Ejogo: 'There's some kind of trauma at play'

Sam Mendes is known for discovering American actresses, but his new film has a fresh British star. Carmen Ejogo tells James Mottram how her own troubled upbringing meant she could identify with the characters in 'Away We Go'

Death in Venice – but this time it's Bogarde's beach

Scene immortalised by Dirk Bogarde film will be lost under plans to develop sand dunes. Michael Day reports on the backlash

Venice Is a Fish, By Tiziano Scarpa

A "vast sole", to be precise, caught by a fishing line in the form of the causeway that links it to the mainland. Scarpa's luminous tribute (translated by Shaun Whiteside) won't tell you where to go ("Getting lost is the only place worth getting to"), but he does tell you how to enjoy Venice through hands ("Block a drinking fountain and send three-metre geysers gushing from the spout") and mouth (fried sardines marinaded in onions and vinegar will "flabbergast your taste buds...").

The Girl of His Dreams, By Donna Leon

The 17th novel in Donna Leon's excellent detective series finds the affable Commissario Guido Brunetti trying to work out how and why a pretty ten-year-old girl has been found floating in Venice's Grand Canal. His investigations take him deep into the Veneto and a squalid gypsy encampment.

My Tango with Barbara Strozzi, By Russell Hoban

Recently-separated writer Phil Ockerman falls in love with winningly-named Bertha Strunk at a tango lesson. Bertha turns out to be the spit of 17th-century Venetian singer and composer Barbara Strozzi, whose "slightly sluttish look was irresistible". Bertha and Barbara take up serious fantasy space in Phil's head, until he's not sure which is which. Hoban's story is grounded in a familiar cityscape of cafés and tubes, but populated with arcane references and zany riffs. A love story that takes place between the ears rather than sheets, it captures the faltering steps of a romance between two people who've been tripped up in the past.

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